Fire safety issues in Barnet Libraries

Over the last year Barnet UNISON have been very concerned about Fire Safety in Barnet Libraries.

This arose because the Council were slow in providing Fires Risk Assessments (FRAs) for Libraries and in complying with the actions resulting from these assessments.

During 2017 Library buildings were altered as part of the Library Program. This included internal structural changes and the installation of technology to permit unstaffed opening hours. These changes meant that the building’s Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) needed reviewing and replacing.

In addition a new Library, Finchley Church End was opened in September 2017 which also required a Fire Risk Assessment

UNISON began asked the Council for these Fire Risk Assessment prior to library staff returning to each site and before the Libraries opened to the public.

However the Council only produced these FRA weeks and months after library staff and the public were admitted to the Libraries.

Examples include;

1. North Finchley Library reopened to the public on the 12th June 2017

The FRA issued on the 24th August 2017


2. Golders Green Library reopened to the public on the 3rd July 2017                                  The FRA issued on 10th August 20.17


3. Osidge Library reopened to the public on the 26th June 2017

The FRA issued on the 16th August 2017

The FRAs when they were produced identified a number of actions for the Council to carry out. The majority of these were described as a

  • “…..a potential contravention of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, or a high risk to Health & Safety from fire”

The deadline for complying with most of these actions was three weeks from the issue of the FRA.

A few of the issues are listed below:

  • Replacing Fire Doors at some with doors with the required level of fire Resistance
  • Fire Refuge Area communication system not working at a number of sites
  • The Emergency Lighting untested at a number of sites
  • No record of the five yearly structural inspection of the external fire escapes at a number of libraries
  • Incomplete Fire Safety signage missing at a number of sites
  • Smoke seals needed for doors at a number of libraries
  • Insufficient numbers of fire extinguisher at one site
  • Fire extinguisher incorrectly mounted at a number of sites
  • Fire door not closing correctly at one library
  • Basement area at one library requiring upgrading to required level of fire resistance
  • Width of staff exit at one site below recommendations
  • Confirmation needed that there is fire separation in the roof void between the library and the commercial use area at one site

Barnet UNISON have been inspecting Libraries to see if the FRA actions have been carried out. In most cases these have not been completed. UNISON have raised this at a number of escalating meetings to the highest level and in our inspection reports.

But no real evidence was presented to Barnet UNISON by the Council that most of the issues had been resolved. Barnet UNISON informed the Council on a number of the occasions that if this continued we would be compelled to contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to report our concerns.

Despite this the Council failed to meaningfully respond and with regret Barnet UNISON reported our concerns to the Health and Safety Executive.

The Council have since then provided UNISON with a plan of works to act upon the FRAs but while this is welcome. These action should have been completed months ago.

The Council inaction has in UNISON view being largely caused by various Council/Capita management teams’ failure to take responsibility to have the Fire Risk Assessment in place in good time and to respond in sufficient time to resolve the problems identified in these assessments.

Barnet UNISON do not believe these failures have been due to library staff on site, who have reported these problems according to Council  procedures and to their Trade Union , and who have themselves been put at risk by the Council.

Barnet UNISON will continue in our campaign to make Barnet Libraries safe for our members, all Library staff and the public.

To this end we call on the Council to:

  • Ensure that libraries and other Council buildings have up to date FRAs in place before staff and the public are admitted
  • Act speedily and effectively to comply with Fire Risk Assessments
  • Review the management of Fire Safety arrangements and monitoring within the Council
  • Work with UNISON and other concerned parties in addressing the risks and hazards in identified in Fire Risk Assessments.

Please note: The following services are provided by #Capita:

  • Estates
  • Health and Safety
  • Project Management

Jeremy Corbyn on #BarnetCouncil, #Capita and losing control.

Jeremy Corbyn on #BarnetCouncil, #Capita and losing control.

It is never dull here in Barnet. In the House of Commons yesterday (21 March 2018), Jeremy Corbyn during Prime Minister Question Time, took the opportunity to comment on Barnet Council and Capita and the recent loss of control of the Council as the result of the deselection of 4 Tory Councillors.

Its amazing how he finds the time to keep up to date with what is going on in Barnet Council.


UNISON National response to Pay consultation Local Government

UNISON’s membership consultation on the Local Government Association’s (LGA) pay offer for 2018-20 ended on 9 March. The UNISON NJC Committee met to today to consider the response.

UNISON members have very narrowly rejected the LGA’s offer, with 50.44% voting to reject and 48.66% voting to accept it. (0.89% of ballot papers were spoilt.)

However, 62.4% of branches and 8 out of 11 Regions have voted to accept the offer.

The Committee had recommended rejection of the offer to members as the basis of the membership consultation. However, since the offer has been very narrowly rejected overall, but accepted by the majority of branches and Regions, the Committee agreed the following next steps:

In light of the results of the consultation on the 2018-20 pay offer, this NJC Committee agrees:

  • To reluctantly amend its recommendation to acceptance of the pay offer
  • To consult branches via Regions on the revised recommendation to accept the offer
  • This consultation to be completed by 5 April 2018
  • That the question to be put to branches is: ‘Do you agree with the NJC Committee’s revised decision to accept the 2018-20 NJC pay offer: Yes /No.

Branches are not being asked to re-consult members on the pay offer but seek member feedback on the NJC Committee’s question as best they can in the timescale given.

A branch circular will be issued early next week giving further details of this consultation and background information explaining the NJC Committee’s reasons for this decision.

With best wishes

Heather Wakefield
National Secretary
Local Government, Police and Justice Section

Happy International Women’s Day! – Move On Up!

101 years ago today women in Russia began taking strike action and this sparked the revolution of 1917. In those times this day was called “International Working Women’s Day”.

UNISON is the one union in Britain dominated by a female membership. We should take inspiration from our predecessors.

Have you completed your ballot on pay? Today is the last day of the ballot so please have your say and make your voice count.

We recommend a rejection of the offer on the basis that the public mood is with us and we believe we can do better than accepting below inflation pay ‘offers’.

Barnet UNISON questions for Barnet Pension Fund Committee

Barnet UNISON members are key stakeholders in the Barnet Pension Local Government Scheme.

Barnet UNISON has been in discussions with Barnet Council and Capita for over 14 months in relation to most of the concerns identified in the recent Audit of the Pension Administration Service. We are presently meeting with Capita Pensions and senior officers to go through ongoing and sometime new emerging issues on behalf of our members.

As part of our role in support of our members, Barnet UNISON has the following questions for the Pension Fund Committee:

Agenda Item 7, Appendix B.

We note form Internal Audit Report that there is concern over pension data quality (finding 1) and pension calculations (finding 2 bullet point 4)

  1. What action has been or will be taken to ensure that pension calculations were correct and based on reliable data for all those who took their pensions after 1st April 2015?


  1. What action has been or will be taken to ensure that pension calculations were correct and based on reliable data for all those who deferred their pension after 1st April 2015?


  1. What action has been or will be taken to ensure that pension calculations were correct and based on reliable data for all those who transferred their pension after 1st April 2015?


***UPDATED Barnet residents don’t blame our members working for Street Cleansing

Last week Barnet UNISON members working in Street Cleansing we called to a meeting and informed of a massive cut to overtime.The news came out of the blue, our members some who have been working for Barnet for decades were both angry and bewildered by this decision.Staff were told there was no longer a budget to cover the service and told that they shouldn’t rely on overtime payments. This did not go down well with the workforce who are the lowest paid in the Council and desperately rely on the overtime payments over the weekend.

This news follows quickly on from the recent 19% cut in the number of staff charged to keep the streets of Barnet clean just before Christmas last year.

In order to explain the cut and its impact on Barnet, Street Cleansing service for Saturday and Sundays which goes from Oakleigh Road depot.

Please note the figures below are for just one side of the borough. The other half of the service goes out from Harrow Depot (we won’t go why we have a depot outside Barnet in this post).

8 hours Finchley Central

8 hours North Finchley

8 Hours East Finchley

4 Hours East & New Barnet

4 hours Friern Barnet/Colney Hatch

4 Hours Whetstone

4 Hours Greenhill/ Mays Lane

8 Hours High Barnet

4 Temple Fortune

8 Golders Green

8 Cricklewood

8 Edgware

4 Mill Hill

8 Watling

4 Hendon Central

4 West Hendon

4 Brent Street

8 Hours response team x 2 = 16 hours

This makes that 92 hours for the whole of the borough.

The new service which started last weekend is a one 7.5 ton vehicle with one driver and one loader (16 hours) to cover all the above areas in Barnet.

This is a reduction of 78 hours per day.

Barnet UNISON has unsuccessfully attempted to try to restore the service for Barnet residents. We have sought clarification as to whether normal service will resume from 1 April 2018, we are still waiting. Our members were reporting increases in fly tipping before the workforce was cut, but still the Council implemented the cut. This massive cut to street cleansing at the weekends is going to have a dramatic impact on our borough.

Meanwhile we hear the Council have enough money to pay “eye watering” payments to Capita and seem to have very little control over agency/consultancy spend.

Barnet Supplier Payments – yet another reason why we need to start planning for change

But what do we know.




Contingency plans in the event of the failure of one of its providers of significant outsourced services.

“On 30th January 2018, Full Council passed a motion on public services and outsourcing, to be considered by the Policy and Resources Committee. Given the timeline of meeting dates, it was agreed that this item be considered at the February meeting of the Performance and Contract Management Committee.

This report provides Members with an outline of the council’s contingency planning arrangements, in the event of the failure of one of its providers of significant outsourced services. The council has a business continuity planning framework, which applies to all services, including outsourced services. In respect of provider failure, the relevant contracts set out the key provisions that would enable the council to ensure continuity of service provision, in particular through the exercise of step in rights.”

Details below

Barnet UNISON notes:

“1.7 The indicators include key accounting ratios that measure liquidity and indebtedness. In respect of Capita, the council reviewed its performance against the ratios on two occasions in the last year, as part of the process for considering pre-payment against the CSG and RE contracts. The ratios have been reviewed again, following the publication of its trading statement on 31st January 2018, and Capita have confirmed that they are far from reaching the relevant thresholds.”

Barnet UNISON is calling upon its members, residents to attend the Performance and Contract Management Committee, Tuesday 27th February, 2018 7.00 pm. Hendon Town Hall.

What has the “rigged economy, John McDonnell, Barnet UNISON motion” got in common

If it is good enough for the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell then its good enough for Barnet UNISON members, we have taken up the challenge and we are mobilising to campaign to bring back service in-house. We were fortunate to have John McDonnell speak at our AGM on 8 February 2018 you can view what he had to say here

We passed following motion “Time to Take our Services Back!” below at our AGM.

We have now had confirmation that the motions have been approved for both UNISON Local Government Conference and UNISON National Delegate Conference in June 2018.

We hope our motion presents our union with an ideal opportunity to escalate and lead an organised grassroots campaign to bring outsourced services back in-house across our membership service groups. Let’s deliver “Deeds not words” and help banish all outsourcing from the workplace.

Motion: Time to Take our Services Back!

This union notes:

  1. Carillion went bust and the immediate effect was for building works on key public sector projects to stop. Potentially thousands of people lost their jobs as Carillion relied on numerous small businesses to deliver on its projects.
  2. Within a month of Carillion going bust Capita’s share prices nose-dived and speculation began as to whether it too would survive.
  3. Capita is one of a handful of big companies which bid to run public services on the promise of saving money. These companies employ tens of thousands of workers. Capita employs over 50,000.
  4. Capita advises Northampton on its finances. 1st February Northampton’s County Council Chief Finance Officer issued a section 114 notice banning any Council expenditure as it was overspent.
  5. Capita has several hundred contracts up for renewal this year.
  6. The initial response from the Local Government Association (LGA) has been to advise Councils not to do anything which might jeopardise the viability of companies like Capita.
  7. Forensics Company collapsed putting in jeopardy the validity of hundreds of court cases but was given further public funds to keep going.

This union believes:

  1. UNISON’s policies of opposing privatisation and outsourcing have been vindicated in the wake of these failures.
  2. The predicament of these companies presents risks to thousands of workers but also opportunities to thousands of workers as the arguments for services being run in-house strengthen.
  3. UNISON has an opportunity to seize the time by organising and campaigning to bring public services in-house and to stop the further outsourcing of other services.
  4. Vigorous and mass public campaigning has a real possibility of weakening the resolve to outsource other services and of discouraging the renewal of other contracts.
  5. The response of the LGA and the response to the collapse of the Forensics Company are outrageous as the onus of saving firms which have taken millions of public sector money to provide public services lies not with public bodies.

This union resolves:

  1. To write to all branches with outsourced members encouraging them to issue press releases calling on their employers to publicise their contingency plans in the event of private contractor failure. Model press releases to be circulated with this notice to assist branches.
  2. To link together the branches which have been able to issue press releases in order that these branches can directly share and develop with one another their experiences of campaigning within the workforce and the local community to bring services back in-house.
  3. To oppose calls to bail out private companies in place of demanding services are brought back in-house.

Solidarity feel free to share widely


“Grave concerns of the Pensions Fund Board with the current situation concerning Messrs Capita.”

“I want to thank members of the Pension Board in particular the Chair for the statement above. Barnet UNISON had already raised a large good deal of the concerns detailed in the audit report mentioned at the Pension Board meeting with our employer. We share the grave concerns expressed so concisely by the Chair of the Pensions Board, however we do not share the optimism of the Council that a service improvement plan will be sufficient. Shortly after Capita took over the Pension Service, staff were made redundant as the service was moved to Darlington. The service is not comparable to the in-house service provided by our members. It our view that the Council should begin negotiations for the service to be brought back in-house. Joining a Pension Scheme is one of the most important financial decisions a worker can make, which is why I am inviting UNISON members who are in the Local Government Pension Scheme to join me at the Barnet Council Pension Fund Committee meeting on Monday 26 February 2018, at 7 pm Hendon Town Hall”  (John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON)

Full details of Pensions Fund Committee meeting here

Transcript of audio is below:

 “It would be an understatement to say this is the most important item on the agenda this evening.

In this context I must remind us all that the London Borough of Barnet Pension Fund Board acts in support of the Pensions Committee.

It is the Pensions Committee of the London Borough of Barnet which is, I think, composed exclusively of Councillors which is as it were operationally in charge of our the entire pensions operation.

It is the job of the Pension Fund Board to advise the Pension Committee to encourage it and warn it, but of course the Pension Fund Board is a public body open to members of the public, our agenda is public and so it should be.

I would be derelict in my duty as chair of your board if I did not put on the record for our minutes the grave concerns of the Pensions Fund Board with the current situation concerning Messrs Capita.

Now I am pleased to say that I have observer status on the Pension Fund Committee.

The Pension Fund Committee will be meeting later this month.

The reason that I am an observer there at the next meeting is actually, technically, formally speaking, to present the annual report of the Pension Fund Board to the Pension Fund Committee.

But I don’t want anyone to be in any doubt particularly Messrs Capita that I should use that opportunity to relay to the Pension Fund Committee the concerns and anxieties of this board in relation to the Pension Fund Committee, and the boroughs relationship with Messrs Capita.

In that connection, I would like to first move formally from the Chair that the report we have just been discussing, although it is already a public document, none the less that it be communicated formally to the Pension Fund Committee.

Can I take that as approved?

Thank you.

I must then point out a certain chronological scenario and my understanding of the contract between the Borough of Barnet and mentioned Messrs Capita, is that it provides inter alia for a series of remedy notices as an official term to be issued and members of the Pension Fund Board, will know, that one remedy notice the first was issued, I think last year, last August after the Borough was fined by the Pensions Regulator.

So colleagues, I would not be at all surprised, I would not be at all surprised, if, by the next time the Pension Fund Board meets then, there is some intimation of a second remedy notice.

I’m not saying that it is imminent but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

My understanding is and I am advised that if a third remedy notice is issued this would mean, I am very much looking to my colleague on my immediate left, to correct me if I am wrong, that this would mean that the borough would be at an imminent state of taking back the contract, yes?


Thank you I am grateful for that clarification.

Our job is to advise the Pension Fund Committee, encourage and support and that’s the purpose of the statement I am making.

In that connection, summarising very broadly there are two overriding concerns that this board has, our main concerns communication with members and the quality of the data.

There are other concerns, but those two top ones, and when I present the annual report of this board to the Pension Fund Committee at the end of this month and when presumably now we have agreed I should also present formally the report we have been discussing.

I shall advise, encourage and warn the Pensions Fund Committee to be exceedingly vigilant on these issues, before the next meeting of the next of this Pension Fund Board, of course this will be an item it goes without saying at the next agenda

Ok, anyone else want to speak?


Thank you very much.




Barnet UNISON Street Cleansing overtime cut meetings













Earlier this week our office was contacted by staff upset at the news that there has been a massive reduction on overtime until 31 March 2018.

Our members working in Street Cleansing rely on the overtime and are quite understandably upset at the short notice of the cut.

Barnet UNISON are organising workplace meetings for our members working in Street Cleansing on the following days please try to attend one of these meetings:

  • Wednesday 21 February at 5.30 am Oakleigh Road depot
  • Friday 23 February at 5.30 Harrow depot







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